Ten Commandments For Sales And Marketing Interns: Internship Experience With Airtel – Tamal Dutta

I have always firmly believed that the most confusing time of a person’s life is teenage. Hands and legs growing in weird proportions, voice suddenly becoming deep, and feelings seeping in for someone of the opposite gender. How can a human being deal with so many confusing developments in such a short time? Surely there cannot be anything more perplexing than this!

Well, I stand corrected. The most confusing time of a person’s life, at least for the ones who decide to get an MBA degree, is the summer internship. The internship passes mindbogglingly fast and, at the end of it all, you are expected to have learnt about the company and the product you are selling, found flaws in the company’s marketing strategy, developed and implemented your new strategy, and increased the sales of that product by a certain percentage. All of these in eight weeks! It is like binge-watching a television series in a foreign language. Without subtitles. At 2x speed. Without food. And sleep.

I am currently in the last week of my internship with Airtel. And it has been like a Christopher Nolan movie – filled with questions and confusion, but an exciting and satisfactory journey at the end. And I can tell you that beyond the hardships and the confusion lies the satisfaction of seeing the company implement strategies that you have suggested. Especially for an ex-IT employee like me, the fact that a company can take your suggestions seriously is beyond the wildest dreams. And, if you do really, really well, you have the coveted pre-placement offer waiting for you at the end. Which basically means, no more studies in the last year of college. With these goals in mind, here is my ten commandments on what you must and must not do as a Sales and Marketing intern.

Ten Lessons For Sales And Marketing Interns

Commandment 1: Thou shall be at the market more and at the desk less

Marketing deals with understanding, well, the market. And the market gives you an understanding of the pulse of the customer, the needs of the retailers, and the performance of your sales force. Hence, if you want to do your marketing internship right, you have to put sunscreen all over your face, pack glucose sachets, fill your water bottle with ice cold water, and hit the market. In Airtel, I have been roaming around on bikes and cars for most of the time, and the most amount of knowledge I have gained has been from talking to the people. Quite simply, there is no better way to understand sales and marketing.

Commandment 2: Thou shall understand first and implement later

Yes, the time is less, the pressure is mounting, but you must never jump the gun. No one is looking for you to suggest solutions in the first week, they are expecting you to understand the problem thoroughly first. If your product has zero awareness, you are not supposed to suggest “Let’s do digital marketing”. They already know that, Sherlock. You are expected to understand how a digital marketing campaign works, who are to be targeted, how and when are they to be targeted, before you suggest a change. Do not throw around buzzwords without understanding them first.

Commandment 3: Thou shall pester people for thy work

What my mentor told me at Airtel will stay with me forever. He said, “This is your project. Whether that will get you a job here or not will affect your life, not mine. So, I will help to the best of my capability, but pushing me and everyone else is your responsibility.” True words. You have the complete right to ask people to get things done quickly for you, to call them repeatedly, and to nag them, if that is required to get your task done. Do not be hesitant because you are an intern, be straightforward because your push will determine the results.

Commandment 4: Thou shall question everything

Start your internship with an open mind and keep asking questions. Get all your doubts clarified, either from the seniors, or through market visits. Do not stay in doubt about anything for too long. Do not assume anything. Get everything clarified. Remember that a single wrong assumption can undo all the work done by asking a hundred right questions.

Commandment 5: Thou shall covet thy neighbour’s strategy

Whatever your company is doing good, there is someone else doing it better. So it is essential that you understand your competitor’s strategy as well. I have spent a significant time in Airtel understanding what the competition is doing right, what they are doing wrong, what are the opportunities to grab, and what are the threats to avoid. You will get some very valuable insights from studying your competition that you will never figure out by restricting yourself to understanding just your own product.

Commandment 6: Thou shall be blunt if required

You have been asked to intern with the company because they want a fresh perspective. To the team working on a product, the product is like their child. They overlook faults in it like a Bengali mother thinks her son is the best son ever. So, they want you to tell them at their face that you are doing this wrong, you are messing that up. So do not hesitate to point out flaws. At Airtel, I was asked from the first day to be blunt, to have no filters. Remember you are not a permanent beneficiary of the company’s paychecks yet. Hence, you can be as straightforward as you want, without being disrespectful, of course.

Commandment 7: Thou shall plan ahead with thy mentor every day

Since the time is short, it is of paramount importance to have your plans ready. So keep plans for every day, every week, and the overall internship duration. And to ensure that your plans are in synchronization with the expectations of your mentor, keep him/her updated. It is very easy to fall behind in an internship, and it is also very easy to set impossible goals for the short period. So keep checking up with your mentor to set feasible goals.

Commandment 8: Thou shall not be afraid to suggest peculiar ideas

Years of working on the same product can narrow down a team’s line of thought. The team members might not be thinking beyond the conventional route and they might be in need of a fresh push. So keep suggesting out of the box ideas, new campaigns, and weird catchphrases, if required. Well, in my internship, I suggested the name of the product be changed, along with the colour scheme. It has now become a funny anecdote for my friends. But I know Airtel understood the problem and took the suggestion seriously. If you ever see an Airtel product packaged in black in the near future, you know who is to be blamed.

Commandment 9: Though shall utilize thy network

You are from a renowned business school and you have your own network. Keep connecting with them in case you want any help or suggestion. If you are floating a survey, push them to respond. If you want guidance in a subject you have not taken yet, ask someone who has studied it already to help you. In the last two months, beyond my work at Airtel, I have been helping others with their survey questionnaires. Network with interns who are working for the same company and understand their projects too. As we all know in business schools, there is no greater strength than networking. So use it well.

Commandment 10: Thou shall not screw up the final presentation

This is what it comes down to. The final presentation. Be very well-prepared for this final hurdle. All your work can go to waste if you fail to present it properly. So, prepare well, check your presentation again and again, consult repeatedly with your mentor, practice what you are going to say, think of all the questions that you might be asked, and rest well before the big day. It should not be too hard, given how presentation-making is the most endorsed skill of all MBAs.

Well, those were my ten commandments for all sales and marketing interns. Thank you for reading till the end. I sincerely hope this will help the readers get an idea of what to expect as an intern. I will go now and prepare for my last week of internship at Airtel. Hoping this last week will be as interesting as it has been till now!


Tamal Dutta

The author is pursuing his MBA from IIM Bangalore. Which basically means he is a sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted, over-ambitious, pompous guy who secretly judges other people while spewing business jargon. And makes solid presentations. And amazing Bengali chicken curry. Damn, the author needs better CV points.